Hoffman's Houston
wonderful west u

Ken Hoffman's love letter to West University, America's No. 1 place to live

Ken Hoffman's love letter to West U, America's No. 1 place to live

West U home exterior
A recent study named West University Place the best place in America to live.  Photo via Har.com

West University Place, inside The Loop in Houston, is the best small town in America. Period. End of Story.


That’s according to the 24/7 Wall Street website, which covers the stock market and other money matters, and funnels its findings to USA Today. Recently, 24/7 Wall Street ranked the top 50 “America’s Best Cities to Live,” which isn’t so much grammatical as arbitrary. West University Place, my fall-winter home, came out No. 1.

Here’s how they did it. They rated 20,000 small cities (under 25,000 population) on a couple dozen criteria — like housing, transportation, affordability, community involvement, crime rate, recreational facilities, and cultural opportunities.

Mind you, 24/7 Wall Street didn’t send reporters to live and breathe all 20,000 cities, or even the best 50 on its final list. It simply poured a bunch of statistics into a computer and spit out West U.

The same dicey methodology has declared Houston the “Fattest City in America” several times, because of doughnut shops and movie theaters vs. jogging trails and bike lanes. So is Houston "Fat City?" Unlikely.

Is West U the “Best City?” We'll take it. Keep walking.

West U, by the numbers
According to the survey, here are some details about my little town (great song by Simon and Garfunkel, by the way):

  • Population: 15,318
  • Median home price: $917,800
  • Median family income: $220,868

(I'm thinking the same thing ... what am I doing here?)

Absolutely, I agree that West U is a pretty wonderful place to live, but not because of numbers and dollar signs. We moved to West U when my son, Andrew, was on his way. I picked West U because I’m a public school guy, and I heard good things about West U Elementary. That school is an amazing place, worth paying way more for my house than I could afford. The things we do.

West U's virtues
I love West U because they’ll shut down your street for a few hours for your child's birthday party. A fire truck will show up for the party if everywhere else in the city is room temperature.

We know our mayor, Susan Sample. She's smart. We know the councilmembers; they’re our neighbors. We bump into them at the supermarket and talk about neighborhood issues. They may not tell you what you want to hear, but they’ll hear you out. West U is only one mile wide and two miles long. The fire department is about in the middle, so response time is seconds, not minutes. A few years ago, I was splattered by a crazy driver. Paramedics were loading me into the back of an ambulance within 45 seconds (I’m told).

West U is Mayberry RFD, except our police chief isn’t Andy Taylor, who gave town drunk Otis the key to his jail. Our chief is a hardass on drunk drivers. He throws away the key. We like that. West U’s crime rate is one of the lowest in America. West U’s unemployment rate is one of the lowest, too.

West U Little League is one of the biggest in the world with more than 1,000 players. 

West U (it's also my spring-summer home) is an affluent city, no doubt. But we’re also diverse — we have every kind of rich doctor and lawyer you want. Fact: When trash collectors empty our garbage cans, they leave a mint on the lid. (I’m kidding.)

Star-studded streets
West U is home to celebrities like Channel 2 morning anchor Rachel McNeill, Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, ESPN hoops analyst Jeff Van Gundy. Superstar State Representative Sarah Davis lives down the street from me. She waves when I pedal by.

One time, I couldn’t find my kid at the West U Little League field. I texted him, "where are you?" He was sitting in the stands, eating popcorn with West U's Hall of Fame baseball star Craig Biggio. I asked him, "did you stick your dirty, disgusting hand in his popcorn box? Please tell me no."

He told me yes.

Several Enron crooks lived in West U before, well, they had a change of address.

Location, location, location
West U is a bike ride from NRG Stadium and Rodeo Houston. We can reach Toyota Center and Minute Maid Park without getting on a freeway. Rice Village is across the street. There
are five major label supermarkets within five minutes. If/when I hit the Mega Millions lottery, I’m not leaving West U.

Why would I? I already live in America’s Best City ... statistically speaking.